Floridians to governor: You’ve got a fight on your hands

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MIAMI - Rick Scott, Florida's tea-party-backed Republican governor, thought he'd have an easy time pushing through his agenda. After all, he won election last fall at the same time voters voted into power what he bragged was the most conservative legislature this state has seen since the Civil War.

But Tuesday, the first day of the new legislative session, saw "Awake the State"demonstrations in 32 cities across the state, aiming to do one thing: stop Gov. Scott's proposed "skeleton budget."

Scott's $65 billion budget includes a nearly $5 billion cut in education, and $3 billion cut from Medicaid over the next two years. It proposes to lay off 8,600 state workers - 7.3 percent of the workforce - and cut benefits for those remaining.

"This would be the biggest cut in education in the history of the state of Florida - not for the last decade, not in the last decade, but ever," said the emcee of the rally in Miami, where several hundred people took their lunch hour to protest outside the Miami-Dade government offices.

The 32 anti-Scott "Awake the State" rallies dwarfed the single pro-Scott rally of about 500 in Tallahassee, the capital. While the Awake rallies were organized by state and local grassroots organizations, the pro-Scott demonstrators had a helpful ally - or puppeteer: Americans for Prosperity, bankrolled by the notorious billionaire Koch brothers. The fake grassroots AFP front poured money into the pro-Scott rally, including for the costs of 14 buses and vans that brought the 500 tea party activists from around the state.

Scott plans to cut corporate income taxes by more than two points - from 5.5 percent to 3 percent - in the upcoming fiscal year, and abolish them altogether by 2018. That may explain the Koch brothers' support for him.

A speaker from the Gray Panthers told the Miami rally that people are fighting Scott's budget out of economic necessity, but also because "Governor Scott's attack on public unions is an attack on people, it's an attack on our freedom, and it's a giveaway of public money to his rich friends."

In his State of the State address, delivered later in the day, Scott struck a populist tone, saying, "As we meet tonight, unemployment in Florida stands at 12 percent." He argued that his proposals would create jobs for the hundreds of thousands of out-of-work Floridians. Even before Scott spoke, those at the Awake the State rally begged to differ.

"Scott and the Republican state leadership," the Gray Panther said, "don't give a damn about workers, firefighters, police officers. Now, I believe the police officers I used to work with who always voted Republican are beginning to see things differently."

Richard Lydecker, chair of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, told the crowd, "I want to express our support for public unions." The fight to preserve them, he said, "is about the middle class."

"The family unit is under attack," Keith Ivory, speaking for the Power U Center for Social Change, said. "Low income and no income, we need jobs."

Ivory noted that Gov. Scott who is so adamant about saving the taxpayers' money, was involved in the biggest case of Medicare fraud in American history. The health care corporation of which he was CEO, Columbia/HCA, was fined $1.7 billion in 1997 for defrauding the government out of billions of dollars in Medicare funds.

Florida New Majority, which played a lead role in organizing the Awake the State rallies, said low-income and unemployed workers would rally in Tallahassee on Wednesday against SB 7005, which has "rapidly moved through committee" in the Florida legislature. It would slash unemployment compensation, Florida's strongest stimulus program.

Towards the end of Tuesday's Miami rally, dozens of people, many members of the Miami Workers Center and Low Income Families Fighting Together, boarded a bus bound for Tallahassee. They vowed that they would press the message of the Awake the State rallies in the capital.

Also on Tuesday, another rally in Miami protested Republican plans to gut teacher tenure.

Photo: Rally participants fill the bus to Tallahassee. Dan Margolis/PW

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  • So, we are cutting thousands of jobs to supposedly make different jobs? Is it just me, or does that make no sense what-so-ever?! This governor better get it together. This hard working educator is going to remember everything he has "done" come election time! I am SO glad that I voted and not for this awful, heartless man!

    Posted by seriously?!, 04/26/2011 5:06pm (4 years ago)

  • Rick Scott has a lot of money and rich friends in high places............and thanks to the Florida voters he's the Governor..........This fight will not be easy........Good luck!
    Great Article!

    Posted by red, 03/11/2011 12:13am (4 years ago)

  • WHERE are the 700,000 jobs in 7 years that Scott was promising us? ALL I see are more jobs being cut; not ONE new job created...Here's what's happening now: you're unemployed; your job that was eliminated last year had paid, say, around $25/hour WITH benefits. More competition for the few jobs in your field that have been created, so greedy Florida CORPORATIONS are CURRENTLY offering a handful of jobs in your field at $15-$20 per hour, short-term contract, with NO benefits. That bill gets passed, guess what?!?! What's going to stop those CORPORATIONS from offering MINIMUM WAGE for ANY and ALL jobs in the state? They don't have to offer a higher wage, because if you turn that job down, they'll report you to AWI! And guess what?!?! AWI will then deny your further benefits, thanks to that asinine bill!!!
    Oh, wait! YOU don't care because you already have a job! GUESS WHAT! Here’s what’s going to happen: those same greedy corporations will then be able to turn around and tell you...we want YOU to take a hefty pay cut and/or pay for ALL of your health insurance, oh, and we're cutting your number of paid days off! Why? Because we can!!! Don't like it?!?! YOU"RE FIRED!!! Oh, and the legislature has ensured that it's harder to get unemployment benefits, so whether you take the pay cut or walk, the corporations still win!
    Think that won't happen? Think again!!! Ask yourself WHY companies continue to off shore decent-paying American jobs. Why, because as one senior VP told me when my job was eliminated 2 years ago: if he hired someone local to fill a position in the call center, he’d have to start them off at $40K PLUS benefits; OR, he could offshore the job for $18K and not have to pay ANY benefits.!
    And watch this all happen before that arrogant tyrant (Scott) and his teabag cronies run for a second term...

    Unscientific survey on Rick Scott's performance: currently, 49% of respondents rate him as "clueless"!

    Posted by Needa Job, 03/10/2011 5:58pm (4 years ago)

  • Rick Scott's company ultimately admitted to fourteen felonies of Medicare Billing Fraud and agreed to pay the federal government over $600 million..............and Floridians voted him in as Governor??........How blinded are these Floridian voters?............How could voters not know about this Medicare Fraud? It was all over the News!!!!!!!!!...........Good Luck to Floridians. You did this to yourself. It was your vote that put Rick Scott where he is today.......................Great Article!!!!

    Posted by red, 03/09/2011 10:01pm (4 years ago)

  • It's just a tad ironic that this morning (Wednesday) on Cleveland's NPR station, a member of Gov. Kasich's cabinet was gushing over the business climate in Florida and how it remains a bright beacon for the Buckeye State to follow as a means to cure the budget "woes." Well...it appears that "paradise regained" is simply another poisonous brew from a bitter tea bag.

    Posted by RDC, 03/09/2011 3:16pm (4 years ago)

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